Local Sports

Illinois' Betiku Signs With Giants

Illinois defensive end Oluwole Betiku, Jr. signed a free agent contract with the New York Giants, the team announced Tuesday. 

 

Betiku declared for the NFL Draft after earning All-Big Ten third team honors during his one season in Champaign. 

 

Betiku was an All-Big Ten third team (media) finishing his season with 36 tackles, 13.0 TFLs, 9.0 sacks, and seven quarterback hurries. His 9.0 sacks led Illinois and his 13.0 TFL were second on the team despite playing in ten games and missing three with injury.

 

Betiku was a grad-transfer from USC and earned bachelor's degree in international relations from USC in May 2019 and pursued a master's degree in recreation, sport & tourism at Illinois.

 

The Giants needed an edge rusher in the draft but did not take one. Betiku could find himself in a position to make a difference on th edge for the 2008 and 2012 Super Bowl Champions.

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Bears Sign DT John Jenkins

The Chicago Bears signed defensive tackle John Jenkins on Tuesday.

 

Jenkins appeared in 16 games and made five starts for Miami last season, getting one sack. He has also played for New Orleans, Seattle, Chicago and the New York Giants since he entered the league in 2013.

 

The Bears also signed 11 undrafted free agents: Mississippi State defensive lineman Lee Autry, Yale offensive lineman Dieter Eiselen, Maryland linebacker Keandre Jones, Western Illinois linebacker LaCale London, Florida International running back Napoleon Maxwell, Duke defensive lineman Trevon McSwain, Oregon State running back Artavis Pierce, Florida Atlantic linebacker Rashad Smith, LSU offensive lineman Badara Traore, Kentucky receiver Ahmad Wagner and Buffalo linebacker Ledarius Mack — brother of star pass rusher Khalil Mack.

 

Chicago missed the playoffs at 8-8 last season after going 12-4 and winning the NFC North in 2018.

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Blackhawks Fire Team President

The Chicago Blackhawks fired team president John McDonough on Monday, cutting ties with a key figure in the most successful decade in team history and raising questions about the direction of one of the NHL’s marquee franchises.

 

The surprising move, coming with the season suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, could have a domino effect on Chicago’s leadership structure. Stan Bowman has served as general manager for almost 11 years, but the Blackhawks haven’t made the playoffs since 2017 — a painful drought for a franchise that hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

 

The Blackhawks announced McDonough’s dismissal in a news release. Owner Rocky Wirtz pointed to the coronavirus crisis and the pause in play as an opportunity to assess the team’s direction.

 

Danny Wirtz, Rocky’s 43-year-old son and a vice president with the team, is replacing McDonough on an interim basis.

 

The 66-year-old McDonough is one of the most respected figures in sports business. He was president of baseball’s Chicago Cubs before he was hired by Rocky Wirtz in 2007 to take over the Blackhawks.

 

McDonough was a big factor in Chicago’s rise to the top tier of the NHL on and off the ice. The team has an active sellout streak of 531 games. The organization is well known for its fan experience and marketing abilities, one reason why it has been a regular participant in the NHL’s outdoor games.

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Pair of ISU Seniors Sign Undrafted Free Agent Contracts

After not hearing their names called during the 2020 NFL Draft, Illinois State All-Americans James Robinson and Luther Kirk did not have to wait long before getting their shots in the NFL as both quickly agreed to undrafted free agent deals Saturday evening. Robinson will join the Jacksonville Jaguars and Kirk will stay close to home with the Dallas Cowboys.

 

Robinson posted a stellar performance at the East-West Shrine Bowl™," where he accumulated 136 total yards (80 rushing, 56 passing) and scored the longest touchdown in the history of the prestigious game with a 63-yard rushing score. The consensus first-team All-American picked up honors by the Walter Camp Football Foundation, the AFCA, HERO Sports, The Associated Press and STATS FCS following a stellar senior campaign for the Redbirds.

 

The Rockford, Illinois, native started all 15 games at running back for the Redbirds and led the Missouri Valley Football Conference in rushing yards (1,899), yards per game (126.6) and touchdowns (18). The three-time All-MVFC selection (2017-19) and two-time Walter Payton Award finalist recorded eight 100-plus yard rushing efforts, including a pair of 200-plus yard efforts in the first and second round of the FCS playoffs that included a school-record breaking 297-yard effort in the first-round with at SEMO. 

 

Robinson finished the season ranked No. 2 in the FCS in rushing yards and yards per game and sixth in rushing touchdowns. He finished his illustrious career ranked No. 2 in Illinois State history in rushing yards (4,444), rushing touchdowns (44), all-purpose yards (5,218) and total touchdowns scored (46).

 

Kirk was named the Defensive MVP at the 95th East-West Shrine Bowl™, after finishing with two tackles and an interception. The Garland, Texas, native was an AFCA FCS Coaches' and HERO Sports FCS All-America First-Team selection and was a second-team All-America selection by STATS FCS. He also earned Associated Press FCS All-America Third Team honors.

 

A two-time All-Missouri Valley Football Conference First-Team selection at safety, Kirk served as a team captain and led the team with 89 tackles on the season, with 64 solo stops, and finished the year with six pass breakups, three sacks, four tackles-for-loss and a forced fumble. He had a career-high 10 tackles and two pass breakups against No. 9 UNI and posted TFLs in back-to-back wins over No. 4 South Dakota State and Missouri State. Kirk recorded the game-winning sack in the thrilling win over the Bears and later finished with five tackles and a sack in the first-round FCS playoff win at Southeast Missouri.

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Clinton Lake Among State Recreation Areas to Reopen; Weldon Springs To Remained Closed

Fisherman will be able to get back on Clinton Lake starting May 1.

 

To allow Illinois residents to engage in some outdoor activities, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) will reopen select state parks, recreation areas fish and wildlife areas, and trails beginning May 1. Visitors to the reopened sites will be required to comply with social distancing guidelines and other COVID-19 best practices.

 

Anyone visiting DNR sites is asked to continue to maintain social distancing guidelines including maintaining a six-feet distance, visiting alone or with members of your household, visiting parks closest to where you live and avoiding groups in areas of parks your visiting. 

 

Eagle Creek State Park, Kickapoo State Recreation Area and Wolf Creek State Park are reopening as well in central Illinois. 

 

The reopened sites will be open daily from sunrise until sunset beginning May 1. Visitors will be allowed to engage in activities such as wildlife observation, hiking, biking, equestrian use, fishing (both from the bank and boats) and mushroom collecting.  Site visitor centers, campgrounds, playgrounds, beaches and concessions will remain closed.  There will be no shelter reservations, interpretive educational programs, or special events until further notice.  

 

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IHSA Cancels Spring Sports Season, Summer Contact Days

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Board of Directors met for their April meeting via a video conference call on Tuesday, April 21, where the Board of Directors announced its decision to cancel all IHSA spring state tournaments. The decision to cancel the spring state tournaments comes in conjunction with Friday's (April 17) announcement by Governor Pritzker and the Illinois State Board of Education that all Illinois high schools will complete the 2019-20 school term from home via e-learning.

 

IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in a statement Tuesday, quote - "We support the decision by Governor Pritzker and the Illinois State Board of Education, and given the logistics, we simply felt we could not conduct state tournaments that meet the expectations of our member schools this spring. As disappointing as it may be for students, it is the right decision for their health and safety, as well as for the health and safety of the general public, as we cope with this unprecedented pandemic."

 

The Board also determined that summer contact days are suspended for this year unless state government and medical leaders indicate such gatherings are safe. At that time, the Board indicated a willingness to reconsider how summer contact might be conducted and whether opportunities for schools to conduct some kind of spring athletic events might occur.

 

The IHSA will continue to communicate with and monitor briefings from state officials, and based on those timelines, provide updates to its member schools as it relates to potential spring participation and summer contact days.

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Clinton, Blue Ridge High School Illuminating Football Fields to Honor Seniors, First Responders, Healthcare Workers

Clinton High School and Blue Ridge High School will be participating in a growing trend across the country to light up their football field to honor senior athletes, healthcare workers and first responders.

 

Clinton High School Athletic Director Matt Koeppel announced yesterday they will also light up the softball and baseball fields at the Clinton High School sports complex from 8 pm tonight to 8:20 pm.

 

He is inviting community members to drive by and honk to show your support. Additionally, for those who cannot get out, turning on porch lights will be a showing of support for those who have been impacted by the outbreak of the coronavirus.

 

For Farmer City and Blue Ridge residents, the district is inviting the community to drive by or fill the parking lot. 

 

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Illinois' Dosunmu Declares for NBA Draft

Illinois star Ayo Dosunmu declared for the NBA draft in a video posted to his Twitter account Wednesday.

 

A first-team, all-Big Ten guard, Dosunmu wrote in the video he is “100% locked in” and plans to forgo his final two years of eligibility. He said he does not have an agent, though players can now hire one and withdraw as long as they cut ties. The NCAA deadline is June 3, with the draft scheduled for June 25.

 

Dosunmu averaged 16.6 points — fifth in the conference — and shot 48.4 percent. The Illini went 21-10 overall and 13-7 in Big Ten play in coach Brad Underwood’s third season and were in line for their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013 when the season ended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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NASCAR's Larson Suspended for Racial Slur

Kyle Larson’s racial slur cost him his two primary NASCAR supporters. It likely will cost him his job soon.

 

McDonald’s and Credit One Bank ended their sponsorship of Larson on Monday, a day after he used the N-word during a live stream of a virtual race. The decision came hours after NASCAR and Chip Ganassi Racing suspended Larson indefinitely, his team doing so without pay.

 

Without funding from McDonald’s and Credit One Bank, Ganassi seemingly will be forced to dump Larson in favor of a different driver.

 

McDonald’s has partnered with CGR for nearly a decade and sponsors the team’s No. 42 Chevrolet in the Cup Series. Ending its relationship with Larson would make it next to impossible for Ganassi to stick with Larson behind the wheel.

 

Ross Chastain would be a likely replacement. Chastain is a Ganassi development driver who has been on loan to Roush Fenway Racing as an injury fill-in for Ryan Newman.

 

NASCAR ordered Larson, who is half Japanese, to complete a sensitivity training course before he can be eligible for reinstatement.

 

Larson apologized in a video posted on his social media accounts.

 

Larson said, quote - “I made a mistake, said the word that should never, ever be said. There is no excuse for that. I wasn’t raised that way. It is just an awful thing to say. I feel very sorry for my family, my friends, my partners, the NASCAR community and especially the African-American community."

Larson was competing in an iRacing event Sunday night when he appeared to lose communication on his headset with his spotter. During a check of his microphone, he asked his spotter, “You can’t hear me?” That was followed by the N-word.

 

The slur was directed at his spotter, who is white.

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Former Cubs All-Star, Glenn Beckert Dies

Glenn Beckert, a four-time All-Star second baseman for the Chicago Cubs in the 1960s and ’70s, died Sunday. He was 79.

 

Citing his family, the Cubs said he died of natural causes in Florida.

 

Playing alongside Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, and Ferguson Jenkins, Beckert won a Gold Glove in 1968 and made four straight All-Star teams for Chicago starting in 1969.

 

Beckert batted .283 in 11 seasons with Chicago (1965-73) and the San Diego Padres (1974-75). He led the National League five times in strikeout-to-at-bat ratio and finished third in batting in 1971 at a career-best .342.

 

After playing shortstop in the minors, Beckert moved to second base with the Cubs for the 1965 season. The position was open after Ken Hubbs’ 1964 death. Beckert then teamed with shortstop Don Kessinger for his entire nine-year Cubs career to form one of the best double-play combinations in baseball.

 

Beckert was traded to San Diego after the 1973 season.

 

Beckert starred in baseball, basketball and football at Perry High School in Pittsburgh, making All-City teams in baseball ad basketball. He went on to Allegheny College, earning a political science degree in 1962. He signed with Boston that year and went to Chicago in the first-year minor league draft.

 

He is survived by daughters Travy Seaman and Dana Starck and longtime partner Marybruce Standley.

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NASCAR Star Uses Racial Slur During E-Race

NASCAR star Kyle Larson used a racial slur on a live stream during a virtual race — the second driver in a week to draw scrutiny while using the online racing platform to fill time during the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Larson was competing in an iRacing event Sunday night when he appeared to lose communication on his headset with his spotter. During a check of his microphone, he said, “You can’t hear me?” That was followed by the N-word.

 

Bubba Wallace one week earlier “rage quit” an official NASCAR iRacing event televised live nationally and his sponsor fired him immediately. Wallace had been wrecked, and, fed up, quit the game and admitted it was out of anger on Twitter. Blue-Emu, a topical pain reliever who had sponsored Wallace for the virtual race and has an association with him for real, replied to the tweet firing Wallace.

 

It was not clear Monday morning what fallout there could be for Larson.

 

Larson is half Japanese — his grandparents spent time in an interment camp in California — and he climbed from short track racing into NASCAR through its “Drive for Diversity” program. He is the only driver of Japanese descent to win a major NASCAR race.

 

Larson, in his seventh full season in NASCAR, is in the final year of his contract with Chip Ganassi Racing. He was at the top of the list of a crowded free agent field when the circuit was suspended four races into the season as sports stopped during the coronavirus crisis.

 

NASCAR quickly pivoted to create an iRacing league of virtual racing that has engaged viewers and set records for esports television viewership. One of the draws of the platform is that drivers can link into one another on a live stream, where they banter, argue, make jokes and discuss the racing. Fans can eavesdrop through the gaming app Twitch.

 

Larson used the slur during a Sunday night race for fun against drivers from various series. The event was not part of NASCAR’s official series.

 

Drivers in the chat immediately reacted to Larson’s use of the slur, with one instantly alerting him, “Kyle, you’re talking to everyone, bud.” Others were in disbelief.

 

Larson and Chip Ganassi Racing had no immediate comment Monday. Larson has six career Cup wins and finished a career-best sixth in the standings last season. He is 27 and the married father of two young children.

 

Among his sponsors at Ganassi are McDonald's and Credit One Bank.

 

He is considered one of the top sprint car racers in the country and in January finally won the prestigious Chili Bowl after 13 attempts.

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Former Illinois Recruit Granted Sixth Year of Eligibility at DePaul

DePaul guard Jalen Coleman-Lands was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA on Wednesday.

 

Coleman-Lands played in all 32 games this past season and led the Blue Demons with 63 3-pointers while averaging 11.1 points. He was limited to nine games the previous season because of a broken left hand in his first year competing at DePaul.

 

The Indianapolis product spent his first two years at Illinois and sat out the 2017-18 season after transferring to DePaul. He has averaged 10.8 points with 77 3s in 41 games for the Blue Demons.

 

DePaul finished with a 16-16 record last season after a 12-1 start.

 

Coach Dave Leitao’s contract was extended through the 2023-24 season last week. The Blue Demons have just one winning year since he returned in 2015 for a second stint.

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IHSA Has Last Minute Date for Spring Sports

High school athletes are out of school and off the field. As the state’s stay at home order runs through the end of April the Illinois High School Association says if sports come back it’s up to when that order gets lifted.

 

Craig Anderson, IHSA Executive Director, says there is a glimmer of hope that if school gets started back up in May that spring sports could shift a little bit into the summer.

 

 

Anderson says he wants all spring sports to have a season and he wouldn’t want to pick and choose what sports would compete later this spring.

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Bulls tab Nuggets' Karnisovas to lead operations

The Bulls hired Denver Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas to run their basketball operation, a person familiar with the situation said Thursday night.

 

The person, who confirmed reports by several outlets, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the move has not been announced.

 

Longtime executive John Paxson was expected to move into an advisory role. The futures of general manager Gar Forman and coach Jim Boylen were unclear.

 

The move allows the Bulls to have their new top executive in place if the season resumes from the COVID-19 pandemic suspension.

 

The 48-year-old Karnisovas starred at Seton Hall and had a successful international career that included two Olympic bronze medals playing for Lithuania. He worked in basketball operations for the NBA from 2003 to 2008 and spent five years as an international scout for the Houston Rockets before joining Denver’s front office in 2013. He became the Nuggets’ general manager four years later, with Tim Connelly promoted from GM to president of basketball operations.

 

Karnisovas had big roles in Denver taking two-time All-Star center Nikola Jokic in the second round of the 2014 draft with the 41st overall pick, as well as recent lottery selections Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. Karnisovas and Connelly also have constructed a highly respected international scouting operations.

 

Reports that the Bulls would shake up their front office surfaced during the All-Star break in Chicago.

They thought they were ready to contend for a playoff spot with a young nucleus but were 11th in the Eastern Conference at 22-43 when the season was suspended.

 

Paxson, who hit the championship-winning 3-pointer for Chicago against Phoenix in 1993, is stepping aside after 17 years running the front office.

 

He took over as general manager in 2003 after Jerry Krause resigned following a failed rebuild in the wake of the Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen era.

 

Paxson was promoted to vice president of basketball operations in May 2009 with Forman — who joined the Bulls as a scout in 1998 — taking over as GM.

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NFL will have 58 prospects participating remotely in draft

Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow and Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young are among 58 prospects who will participate remotely in the NFL draft in two weeks that will double as a telethon to raise money to fight the coronavirus crisis.

 

Burrow is one of eight LSU players who will take part in the April 23-25 draft, one more than Alabama.

 

The NFL also said that throughout the three-day draft it will host a “Draft-A-Thon” to benefit COVID-19 relief efforts and pay tribute to healthcare workers and others on the front lines of the pandemic.

 

The SEC leads all conferences with 24 prospects confirmed to participate in the event, which will serve as a three-day fundraiser benefiting six charities that are battling the virus and delivering relief to millions in need.

 

Those charities are: the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross; CDC Foundation’s All of Us; and the COVID-19 response funds of Feeding America, Meals on Wheels America and United Way.

 

Despite the logistical challenges of operating a 255-pick draft remotely, teams will still have just 10 minutes between picks in the first round, seven for rounds 2 and 3 and five for rounds 4-7.

 

The Cincinnati Bengals own the first overall pick.

 

Among the other players who will participate are Clemson linebacker/safety Isaiah Simmons, Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown and Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah.

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Former Cardinals 1B Finishes Medical School, Headed to Help Coronavirus Fight

On Friday, under an accelerated schedule prompted by dire circumstances, former big leaguer Mark Hamilton is set to graduate a month early from medical school on Long Island.

 

Next stop for the rookie doc, the first-hand fight against the coronavirus pandemic in one of the world’s hardest-hit areas.

 

The 35-year-old Hamilton spent the first half of the 2011 season with the Cardinals. He subbed for slugger Albert Pujols a few times and even got a winning hit that ultimately helped St. Louis squeeze into the playoffs by one game.

 

The left-handed hitter who played 47 games in the majors will join another lineup once he leaves the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell.

 

Hall of Famer Tony La Russa, Hamilton’s manager with the Cards, said quote - “That’s a great story, what Mark’s done. That’ll be a high point at this period."

 

Far fewer have earned the title in the classroom -- including Moonlight Graham, the real-life ballplayer-turned-doctor portrayed in the film “Field of Dreams.”

 

Perhaps the most prominent was Bobby Brown, an October star for the New York Yankees in the 1940s and ’50s who also was a military veteran, president of the American League and longtime cardiologist.

 

It’s a path Hamilton -- who played at Tulane, as did Brown -- planned on long ago.

 

Hamilton’s father, Stanley, was the longtime head of pathology and laboratory medicine at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He currently holds the same position at the City of Hope center in Southern California.

 

A 6-foot-4 power hitter, Hamilton helped Tulane reach the 2005 College World Series. The next year, he was a second-round draft pick by the Cardinals.

 

In September 2010, Hamilton got the call to the majors and posted his first two hits. In 2011, he stayed with St. Louis almost all the way to the All-Star break, mostly as a pinch hitter.

 

Hamilton’s highlight came on July 4 before a big crowd at Busch Stadium. Batting for ace Chris Carpenter with two outs and a runner on third in the eighth inning of a scoreless game, his infield single off Johnny Cueto gave the Cardinals a 1-0 win over Cincinnati.

 

Within a week, Hamilton was sent back to Triple-A for good. He spent parts of the next three years in the St. Louis, Boston (getting a big welcoming hug from David Ortiz) and Atlanta organizations

 

After nine productive pro seasons that included over 100 home runs in the minors, he was release

d in July 2014, three days before his 30th birthday.

 

Hamilton’s final major league stats, including time as a left fielder and designated hitter: 12 for 61 (.197) with three doubles, four RBIs and five runs scored.

 

Plus, a World Series ring that he says he rarely wears.

 

Hamilton plans to enter the field of interventional radiology. But before that, his first year as an internal medicine resident is certain to be dominated by the virus outbreak, managing patients admitted at Long Island Jewish Medical Center and North Shore University Hospital in the Northwell Health system. He’ll also spend elective weeks in the ICU.

 

Hamilton lives in Queens, about a 15-minute drive from the New York Mets’ home at Citi Field, with wife Lauren and their 9- and 6-year-old daughters. 

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Earnhardt Jr Headlines NASCAR's Next Hall of Fame Class

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton and Carl Edwards were among the new nominees for NASCAR’s next Hall of Fame class announced Tuesday under a revamped voting protocol.

 

Voters for 11 years elected five members per class first from a list of 25 candidates; it was trimmed to 20 beginning with the 2015 class.

 

The new process starting this year splits the nominees into three ballots; Modern candidates, Pioneer candidates and Landmark candidates. Two entries from the 10 Modern candidates will be elected, along with one entry apiece from the five-candidate Pioneer and Landmark categories.

 

Janet Guthrie, the first woman to run in the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600, returns as a nominee to the Landmark category after a one year absence. She was dropped in 2019 from the category, which has existed as an award for contribution to the sport, and her absence sparked a backlash toward the nominating committee.

 

Burton, Earnhardt, Edwards, Jake Elder and Banjo Matthews are all first-time nominees for the Hall of Fame. Burton and Earnhardt both moved to the NBC Sports broadcasting booth after successful careers with big race wins but never the elusive Cup Series championship.

 

Earnhardt won 26 career Cup races, including a pair of Daytona 500s, and is a 15-time winner of NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver Award. Burton counts wins in the Southern 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 among his 21 career Cup victories.

 

Edwards won 28 Cup races and twice failed to win the Cup title in the season finale. He tied Tony Stewart in final points in 2008 but Stewart won the race to earn the tie-breaker in the championship battle.

 

Others on the Modern ballot include crew chief Kirk Shelmerdine, Neil Bonnett, Harry Gant, Harry Hyde, Larry Phillips, Ricky Rudd, Kirk Shelmerdine and Mike Stefanik.

 

Sam Ard, Ray Fox, John Holman, Marvin Panch, Jim Paschal and Red Vogt did not carryover from the 2020 ballot.

 

The Pioneer ballot is: Elder, Matthews, Red Farmer, Hershel McGriff and Ralph Moody.

 

The Landmark ballot is: Guthrie, Alvin Hawkins, Mike Helton, Dr. Joseph Mattioli, Ralph Seagraves.

 

Voting is typically done in late May on the Wednesday before the Coca-Cola 600. That race is still scheduled for NASCAR, which has not publicly announced any plans to alter its planned May 9 return to racing.

 

Series officials realistically are targeting the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24 for the return of racing, but NASCAR had no announcement on when Hall of Fame voting will be conducted.

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Players, Managers Intrigued By Arizona Games

Putting all 30 teams in the Phoenix area this season and playing in empty ballparks was among the ideas discussed Monday during a call among five top officials from MLB and the players’ association that was led by Commissioner Rob Manfred, people familiar with the discussion told The Associated Press. 

 

With its season delayed due to the new coronavirus, both sides are searching for ways to get under way. Kansas City manager Mike Matheny would feel privileged to help the country return to a semblance of normalcy and provide an escape for fans.

 

Matheny said quote - “Just jump in and trust that we may not know when we’ll reconnect with our families, and trust that when health officials decide it’s OK we’ll be able to do that. But in the meantime, do something that would really help the healing process.”

 

Baseball officials intend to study which options may be viable economically and would gain necessary approvals. The league said it has not yet sought approval of any plan from federal, state and local officials, or from the players’ association.

 

Arizona has 10 spring training ballparks plus the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field all within about 50 miles. Phoenix Municipal Stadium — Oakland’s old spring training base and now Arizona State’s stadium — is an option along with Grand Canyon’s Brazell Field.

 

Chase Field could host several games each day following its switch to an artificial surface ahead of the 2019 season.

 

Baseball’s look would be different in empty ballparks. Players from the Orioles and the Chicago White Sox still recall playing in a deserted Camden Yards in 2015 when civil unrest caused a closed-doors game. The game sped along in 2 hours, 3 minutes.

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Pro Sports Leagues Making Contingency Plans

Putting all 30 teams in the Phoenix area this season and playing in empty ballparks was among the ideas discussed Monday by Major League Baseball and the players’ association.

 

The sides held a telephone call to talk about paths forward for a season delayed by the new coronavirus pandemic, people familiar with the discussion told The Associated Press. 

 

Ideas are still in the early stage, and the Arizona option would have many obstacles to overcome, the people said.

 

Half of the MLB clubs hold spring training in Arizona, the other half in Florida.

 

Arizona’s advantage is 10 spring training ballparks plus the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field all within about 50 miles. Florida’s spring training ballparks are spread by as much as 220 miles.

 

Baseball’s season had been set to start March 26 but spring training was halted on March 12. After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended restricting events of more than 50 people for eight weeks, MLB said it would not open until mid-May at the earliest.

 

The players’ association would want to survey its members to determine whether they would support such a plan, one of the people said.

 

 

 

The Masters goes from that annual rite of spring to two weeks before Thanksgiving. The U.S. Open now is scheduled in September for the first time since amateur Francis Ouimet took down Britain’s best at Brookline in 1913 to put golf on the map in America.

 

And the oldest championship of them all won’t even be played.

Golf organizations tried to salvage a season unlike any other Monday with a series of changes, starting with the British Open being canceled for the first time since 1945. The PGA Championship, which last year moved to May, would go back to August. That would be followed by the PGA Tour’s postseason, the U.S. Open and Ryder Cup in consecutive weeks, and then the Masters on Nov. 12-15.

 

Still to be determined was when — or even if — golf could resume because of the COVID-19 pandemic that has shut down sports worldwide.

 

Golf’s major organizations, starting with the PGA Tour and its calendar filled with tournaments, have been trying to piece together a puzzle for the last three weeks. Each agreed to announce their plans together in a show of collaboration.

 

The new schedule:

 

— Aug. 6-9: PGA Championship.

— Aug. 13-16: End of PGA Tour regular season at Wyndham Championship.

— Aug. 20-23: Start of FedEx Cup playoffs at The Northern Trust.

— Aug. 27-30: BMW Championship, second playoff event.

— Sept. 4-7: Tour Championship for the FedEx Cup.

— Sept. 17-20: U.S. Open at Winged Foot.

— Sept. 25-27: Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.

 

It was not immediately clear how the teams from Europe and the United States would be determined for the Ryder Cup, although European captain Padraig Harrington has said he would not be opposed to picking all 12 players.

 

 

 

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is bracing for several more weeks of uncertainty about the remainder of this halted season, revealing Monday night that he does not expect the league will be able to decide anything until at least May.

Silver spoke on the NBA’s Twitter account as part of the league’s new NBATogether initiative, in a conversation hosted by Turner Sports’ Ernie Johnson. Silver touched on many topics, including how the league is looking at numerous scenarios for a return, but in every case the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic makes it impossible right now to move too far forward.

 

The NBA was the first of the major U.S. pro leagues to shut down because of the COVID-19 threat, doing so after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first player in the league to test positive for the virus. The league’s regular season was to end April 15, and the playoffs were to begin April 18.

 

That isn’t going to happen, and that has been known for some time. The NBA wants this season to resume, but simply cannot say with any certainty if it will or will not happen.

 

Among the decisions that have yet to be made, Silver said: whether the regular season will resume in some form or if the NBA would go immediately into the playoffs — assuming the league can salvage this season at all.

 

Also on the drawing board: if games would be played in NBA arenas or practice facilities, how televising games would work and if the league would take everybody to one site to finish the season. Cities have expressed interest in that option and have reached out to the NBA to say as much, Silver said.

 

 

 

With the NHL playoffs, which were to begin Wednesday, on indefinite hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, anything and everything is on the table if Commissioner Gary Bettman’s objective to complete the season is to be realized.

What the format will be, when play might realistically resume and whether the NHL might require games at neutral sites — how’s North Dakota sound? — is anyone’s guess.

 

Over the weekend, the governors of New York and California both tamped down President Donald Trump’s hope of sports resuming in August. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said: “I would love to see sports back to help with cabin fever. … But this is not about hopes and dreams and aspirations and what you would like to see.”

 

The NHL, which postponed play March 12, has several times pushed back its self-quarantine guideline — it’s now April 15 — before players can even think about reporting to team facilities. The date is expected to be extended again.

 

Will the NHL will have time to squeeze in any of the remaining 189 regular-season games to determine seedings, or skip directly to the playoffs based on the current standings, be it based on total points or points percentages.

 

In the percentage scenario, the ninth-place New York Islanders would have the edge over the eighth-place Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference. In the West, seventh-place Winnipeg would be the odd team out with Vancouver in.

 

Other possibilities include expanding the playoff format to take into account the uneven amount of games teams have played.

 

With the pandemic affecting regions of the continent at different times, the NHL is also considering having playoff games played at neutral sites. Sportsnet.ca reported over the weekend that North Dakota has been mentioned as a potential site.

 

A person familiar with discussions told the AP the Buffalo Sabres’ two-rink downtown practice facility, and connected to their home arena and full-service hotel, has also been mentioned among the numerous options raised. 

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Hall of Famer Al Kaline Dies at 85

Al Kaline, the Hall of Fame outfielder who played his entire 22-season career for the Detroit Tigers, died Monday at his home in Michigan. “Mr. Tiger” — as he was affectionately known — was 85.

 

Kaline was the youngest player to win the American League batting title, in 1955 at age 20 with a .340 average. He was an All-Star in 15 seasons and won 10 Gold Gloves. The beloved No. 6 later sat behind a microphone as a Tigers broadcaster and was a special assistant to the general manager.

 

Kaline was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1980 in his first year of eligibility.

 

Kaline came straight out of Baltimore’s Southern High School to the majors, making his debut on June 25, 1953. He took over as Detroit’s everyday right fielder in 1954, and quickly became a fan favorite at Briggs Stadium, later renamed Tiger Stadium.

 

Kaline never hit 30 home runs in a season and topped the 100-RBI mark only three times, but his overall consistency at the plate and his exceptional fielding and throwing put him among the top AL outfielders.

 

Kaline finished his career with 3,007 hits and 399 home runs. He scored 1,622 runs and had 1,582 RBIs. He got his 3,000th hit back in Baltimore, slicing a double down the right field line in September 1974, his final season.

 

In his only World Series, Kaline hit .379 with two home runs and eight RBIs as the Tigers overcame a 3-1 deficit to beat St. Louis for the 1968 championship.

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NFL Will Do Virtual Draft

The NFL draft will be conducted in a virtual format, with team personnel working from their homes.

 

In a memo sent to the 32 teams Monday and obtained by The Associated Press, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell outlined procedures for the April 23-25 draft. The guidelines include no group gatherings.

 

All team facilities were closed on March 26 and Goodell has ordered them to remain shut indefinitely.

The draft originally was scheduled to be held in Las Vegas, but the NFL canceled all public events last month as a safeguard against the coronavirus. On Monday, Goodell instructed the teams on how they should plan to make their selections.

 

Plans for televising the draft have not been finalized, though it is expected that ESPN and NFL Network will do so, perhaps in a joint effort.

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Clinton High School Names Boys Basketball Coach

Dan Luketich has been named the Clinton High School boys basketball coach as announced Monday by athletic director Matt Koeppel.

 

Luketich currently resides in New Jersey but is a native of Roxana, Illinois. Coach Luketich was impressed with how dedicated to finding a coach Clinton administrators were and liked the energy everyone has for the programs of the district.

 

 

For Coach Luketich, he wants his kids to play fast on both sides of the ball. He described the defensive style of play as 'playing with their hair on fire' and says the pressure will never stop. 

 

 

Coach Luketich has worked at camps across the country from Point Guard College, worked summer camps at Creighton University, and has been able to attend summer workouts for KK Split in Croatia,  traditionally one of the top club teams in Europe. 

 

Additionally, he has coached at Ridgewood High School under Coach Chris Mroz in Chicago, Horizon High School under Jerry Conner in Arizona, Bourgade Catholic High School under Tim Benedict in Arizona, and most recently at Bergen Catholic High School under Billy Armstrong in New Jersey. 

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NCAA Grants Spring Athletes Extra Year of Eligibility

The NCAA will permit Division I spring-sport athletes — such as baseball, softball and lacrosse players — who had their seasons shortened by the coronavirus pandemic to have an additional year of eligibility.

 

The NCAA Division I Council voted Monday to give spring-sport athletes regardless of their year in school a way to get back the season they lost, but it did not guarantee financial aid to the current crop of seniors if they return to play next year.

 

Winter sports, such as basketball and hockey, were not included in the decision because many athletes in those sports had completed all or most of their regular seasons, the council decided.

 

How much scholarship money will be made available to each athlete whose college career would have ended this spring will be determined by the athlete’s school. The amount could range from nothing to as much the athlete received had been receiving.

 

The added scholarships could cost a school hundreds of thousands of dollars more than it would usually spend on spring-sport athletes. The extra expenses come at a time when athletic departments could be facing cutbacks. The pandemic forced the cancellation of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which cut the association’s distribution to members by $375 million this year.

Schools will be able to use the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund to pay for scholarships for students who take advantage of the additional eligibility in 2020-21.

 

Roster and scholarship limits for teams will be adjusted next season to fit returning seniors and incoming freshman. Similar changes have already been approved in Division II.

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NFL Owners Approve 14-Team Playoff

The NFL is gearing up for a normal season and playoffs — with two additional wild-card teams in the Super Bowl chase.

 

NFL team owners voted Tuesday to expand the playoffs by one team in each conference for a total of 14 next season as they continue to plan for the 2020 season to begin on time.

 

During a conference call to discuss league business after the annual meetings were canceled due to the new coronavirus, the owners also awarded one of those extra games to CBS and one to NBC. Three-fourths of the 32 owners needed to approve the change, and the vote was unanimous, football operations chief Troy Vincent said.

 

Contingencies are being discussed for all potential interruptions caused by the coronavirus.

 

As for the first expansion of the postseason field since 1990, when the NFL went from 10 qualifiers to 12, only the teams with the best record in the AFC and NFC will get a bye under the new format; the top two teams in each conference skipped wild-card weekend in the past. The seventh seed will play No. 2, the sixth will visit No. 3 and the fifth will be at the fourth seed for wild-card games.

 

Three games are set for Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 9-10 — pending the NFL schedule going forward as planned; that schedule likely will be released on May 9, according to Brian Rolapp, the league’s chief media and business officer, to give the NFL “flexibility.”

 

CBS will broadcast one of the new games on Jan. 10 at approximately 4:40 p.m. EST. The game will also be available via live stream on CBS All Access. A separately produced telecast of the game tailored for a younger audience will air on Nickelodeon.

 

NBC, its new streaming service Peacock and Spanish-language Telemundo will broadcast the other new game on Jan. 10 at approximately 8:15 p.m. EST.

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